As you know, for years, lawmakers from both chambers and both parties have been working on a fix to our state’s broken school funding formula. Over time, we have found a better approach known as the “evidence-based model,” which is a system that directs taxpayers' limited resources to those school districts that need them the most by taking into account scientific data, evidence or best practices as a way to determine how to most equitably and adequately fund our schools.
The evidence-based model is a very different approach from previous proposals, which took money from some districts and gave it to others based on politics—not data-driven decisions.
By negotiating in good faith, lawmakers have made a great deal of progress on a bipartisan school funding bill. In fact, this legislative session all negotiations were based on some version of the evidence-based model, which everyone aggress works for all students in all areas of Illinois.
Despite our positive headway, in late May our colleagues across the aisle walked away from the negotiating table. House and Senate Democrats then chose to instead pass a partisan school funding bill, Senate Bill 1, which was filled with special deals for one district, Chicago Public School District 299. In fact, under Senate Bill 1 seven out of every ten new dollars dedicated to school funding would be directed to Chicago.
Because equity does not mean special deals for just one district the Governor has promised to veto the plan, and legislators from across the state have made it clear that they will not vote to override a veto of Senate Bill 1. This means the fate of Senate Bill 1 does not look promising.
However, there is an alternative that reflects compromise worthy of bipartisan support. This is one that all school districts would benefit from, under the more equitable formula advanced under an amendment to Senate Bill 1124, of which I am a co-sponsor. In the spirit of compromise, the proposal adopts the overwhelming majority of Senate Bill 1. In fact, there are far more similarities between the two bills than there are differences.
Both utilize the same evidence-based model, and use the same methods to deliver funding to low income students and to determine cost differences between districts. In addition, both measures group districts into the same four tiers based on need and use the same local resource calculations. Further, both proposals agree on the elimination of the controversial Chicago Block Grant and feature the same safeguards for English learners and special education funds.
In May, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1 stated that the two proposals were 95 percent the same. Today they are much closer than that; however, there are still differences.
Senate Bill 1124 recognizes that Chicago needs help, and it provides the school district with assistance, based on evidence-based practices and the demographics of their students. What it doesn’t offer are special deals hidden in the formula designed to fix the Chicago Public Schools’ broken pension system and pay off their overwhelming debt from years of fiscal mismanagement. Instead, Senate Bill 1124 relies on the data, and data alone, to drive resources to schools that need it most, including Chicago.
Senate Bill 1124 is good for all 852 school districts in Illinois, including schools in our area, and unlike Senate Bill 1, does not single out one district to pit students from different regions against each other. Instead, all schools are treated the same under a formula that is the same for everyone—regardless of their zip code. In fact, recently released data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows that Senate Bill 1124 in its current form is unquestionably more equitable for all low-income students in Illinois. The Governor has stated that he would sign this legislation into law if it passes the General Assembly.
We must pass a school funding reform measure that treats all schools fairly and equitably as soon as possible as Speaker Madigan put in his budget that passed earlier this month that in order for schools to receive their appropriations for the upcoming school year, an “evidenced-based model” must be on the books in Illinois.
Here is a breakdown of how schools fare under SB 1 vs. SB 1124 in my Senate District.
More information on SB 1124 can be found here: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Education-Funding-Proposals.aspx
The bottom line: SB 1124 is better for our schools and schools across the state. My hope is we can get this past the finish line. Our schools and students deserve the best from Springfield.
- Sen. Rezin